Author – Joe Mulumba
Social networking is for as it says for social networking. Yes, I just did that. I just defined some words by using the same words. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s see what social networking do: They provide networking opportunities for socially likable people to exchange and relate to one another. Sadly it doesn’t always happen that way. Vicious, depressed and mean people have now the ability to be vicious, depressed and mean, and they can do all this by hiding behind a screen name without fearing any retaliation. Well, they don’t always get away if someone takes the pain to find them.
Apart from that, Congolese have quickly adapted to using all sorts media outlets to share, promote, discuss, learn, and teach one another and the rest of the world about the Congolese history, culture and current affairs. Although, many are wisely utilizing the network to push forth a cause, a political campaign and or shown light to the 6 million being killed in East Congo, there are still many who are misusing this great creation. One example of Congolese misuse is, I must insist no worse than people from different countries, what happened when someone decided to attack a Congolese group on facebook and received 1478 comments and they ranged from the most vicious to the most helpful. It doesn’t take long to realize that people met on social networking websites give themselves personas that are better or worse than whom they are. For some, it is intentional while for others it isn’t. Nothing on the Internet ever goes away. It is crucial to understand that the internet is an engine that keeps track of everything that is submitted i.e. pictures, videos, and texts all of which can play to your advantage or disadvantage.
Not to dwell too much on the negative misuse of the social network, a few of our brothers and sisters are using this new technology to branch out, and become active participants of the global community. Writer, independent filmmaker and artist Sabrina Moella (http://www.sabrinamoella.com/), musician, producer, songwriter Kaysha ( link: http://kaysha.com/) , rapper and producer Baloji (link: http://baloji.com) to name a few, have made use of this invention to put their names out there for the rest of the world, not just Congo, to learn and appreciate their musical craft. One Congolese journalist who made a name for himself in the blogging world in Africa is Cedric Kalonji( link: http://cedrickalonji.net/) who received the prize for best African journalist blogger in 2009.
There are two camps that have always been sitting on both sides of a new technology: The cheerleaders and the prophets of doom. Cheerleaders always claim that this will bring humanity closer, higher and better at fulfilling its destiny while the prophets of doom always claim the opposite. So far, paper, printing, telephone, cars, computers have enhanced modern life in ways that people who lived before any of them could comprehend. This doesn’t mean that those in power or with financial means haven’t tried over and over with each new technology to control or generate more money through these technological means. Without going too far into the conspiracy theory, Assange (link: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2010/12/wikileaks-evolves.html ) is a powerful figure of the anti-establishment activists on the web that this age has seen and could give you an overview of how information is power. And as you will see among the multiple news sources from Congo with their respective websites, each tries to influence its audience in one way or another. Congolese could learn about the revolutionary power of the web by looking at Wael Ghonim and his facebook group activism that started a new age for Egypt history ( link: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/02/09/egypt.protests.google.exec/index.html?hpt=T2) or Obama’s internet campaign to win the presidential seat ( link : http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/11/propelled-by-in/)
As I tried to write a complete view of how social networking is affecting the lives of Congolese at home and in the Diaspora, I realized that it’s as absurd as trying to summarize how Internet is used by Congolese because it goes from the profane and mundane to the high brow culture and intellectual usages. The Web always promotes itself.
Apart from the listed websites, I would love to hear more about your own use of social media outlet and how they influence your everyday life such as Vimeo, Twitter, Blogs, Websites, youtube, facebook, myspace, hi5, etc…
For those who dabble in the language of Moliere: French they could take the time to check out some of these blogs I came across while writing this article:
http://congosiasa.blogspot.com/ (this one is in English)
For those who want to read more about the web and its influences, here are a few links:
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/08/23/25-things-writers-should-know-about-social-media/ : This could be applied also to anyone other than just writers.